Counting Grains of Sand: Natasha Metzler on Infertility, Adoption, and Her New Book

This post contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure here. 

counting-grains-of-sand-natasha-metzler

I am so excited about the interview I have for you all today. I’ve been a raving fan of Natasha’s writing for awhile now and I’ve always wanted to interview her. In fact, at the end of 2015, I sat down and made a list of people I wanted to ask for interviews and she was the first person who came to mind.

But I get really intimidated when it comes to contacting people I admire. So I never wrote to ask her for an interview.

But a few weeks ago, I was contacted by Natasha and asked to be a part of a group of bloggers spreading the news about her new book, Counting Grains of Sand: Learning to Delight in a Promise-Making God. (I may have gotten a little giddy when I got the email. I couldn’t believe she actually knew who I was!).

I got to read an advance copy of the book, and ladies, do yourself a favor and buy a copy now.  This is one of those books that has you nodding along as you read, saying things like, “Yes, “That’s exactly how I feel,” and “She just put words into what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t verbalize.”  I read through most of the book in one setting because I just. could. not. put. it. down.  I thought about it while I folded laundry the next day.  I thought about it while I was driving.  I thought about it when I woke up that night because my husband was snoring so loud!  Yes, it’s THAT GOOD.

After I read the book, I decided to be brave and asked her for an interview, and she graciously agreed. And I mean it when I say that this is one of the most beautiful interviews I’ve published. I’m so thankful for her words and her heart. I know they will encourage you today.

counting-grains-of-sand
Q.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I honestly never thought I’d be able to write this but: I’m a mom. I still battle infertility, but we have now adopted two children, both when they were eight years old. It’s way different than anything I expected from my life, but it’s good.

I am married to a man my dad set me up on a date with (such a true story. You should totally jump over to my blog and read it.) and we are on our tenth year of marriage. It has been a joy. And I really do mean that. Super, super hard, but AMAZING at the same time because my husband is my safe place and I’d rather walk through the worst sorrow with him than the greatest happiness without him.

We live on a little farm in Northern New York where my husband works at a mechanic, repairing farm machinery for area farmers, and I write and clean the house in between homeschooling our two children.

Q.  Please tell us about your infertility journey and how has it shaped your writing?

So, I knew before I got married that there was a strong chance I wouldn’t be able to bear children. But I was young! I thought with a little doctoring, a little work, a bunch of prayers, we’d be okay.

We weren’t so much.

And my ability to handle our infertility pretty much dissolved into a heap at my feet a few months after the wedding.

I’ll tell you a secret: I really thought God would probably give us a honeymoon baby. Wouldn’t that be so cool of Him? After all, we were expecting problems—so I was pretty sure God was just going to surprise us with easy-peasy.

Not so much on that either.

But it was there, with all my failed-expectations and all my struggles and all my questions, that God met me for real.

I’m not saying that I didn’t know God at all, I did! But there is something about knowing God in the middle of sorrow and loss that transforms a person.

I always wanted to be a writer. I have a couple awesome novels sitting in computer files, in fact. But it was the story of infertility and loss that God led me to write and my writing has deepened in a way I never could have predicted. Pain does that to a person.

Q.  You’ve experienced infertility, miscarriage, and failed adoptions. How do you resist despair and hopelessness?

I cling to Jesus with everything I have.

I know that sounds like a cliché answer, but I don’t know how to put it any other way.

I recently went through a week of literally crying through every. single. day. Oh, lands. Talk about feeling dumb. At Bible study one night, I held a close friend’s newborn and bawled all over her. Then I sat through the whole meeting scrubbing at my face to keep the tears from dripping on my Bible.

My poor husband.

The root cause of it all was that all in one week we saw twins that we had once been “in line” so-to-speak to adopt but who were placed with another family, then got the news that the birth mom of our baby Annie (who was a preemie and only lived 12 days) had lost parental rights to her two year old daughter and a family with four children were adopting her, and of course, it was also the anniversary of Annie’s death.

Oh, and that was the week my coffee tasted funny and I got super-stupid excited that maybe I was pregnant because my sister-in-law, who is pregnant with her fifth child, wasn’t able to even sip coffee because it just tasted weird to her with all those pregnancy hormones rushing around…but of course, I wasn’t pregnant AT ALL, I just had used outdated half & half.

So, there were some pretty rough moments of “God, what is so wrong with me that I can’t have babies, still? Not even adopt one. Is this really, truly, a forever thing?”

And as I share in my post about the whole coffee/rotten creamer ordeal, when I stay close to Jesus, I live.

But I still cry sometimes. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you don’t cry at times, you’re probably not really alive.

Q.  You’re the mother to two children whom you adopted when they were older (not babies). What’s the best part about older-child adoption and what do you want people to know about adopting an older child?

Older-child adoption is the coolest thing ever. It’s also the very, very, very, very, very (and that’s probably not enough “verys”) hardest thing a person can ever do.

The best part is that you get to look at this child, who has faced so much heartache and loss, and you get to say, “Hey. We’re going to be family. I choose you to be part of my life and my heart and my home and my everything.” And the first time that child looks at you and their eyes actually sparkle? Yeah. It’s pretty much amazing.

But adopting older children isn’t for everyone. And it’s certainly not a “cure” for infertility.

If you’ve never considered it, definitely pray and ask the Lord if it’s something He’s leading you toward. And if He’s not? Don’t forget to support those who are walking this road. It’s a lonely, lonely place.

Part of our job as parents to older adopted children is to protect their stories until they are grown enough to deal with them—which means we’re not going to be telling the world what our child has faced. This feels awkward at times.

I’ve had people tell me they are concerned about how my husband and I parent. I even had one lady express her genuine concern that I did not fully understand how wonderful my daughter really was and I needed to give her more freedom.

If you know someone who has older adopted children, the best support is to trust that there is probably more to the story.

There are very real reasons why my eleven year old has boundaries more like a six year old. And I do really, truly, know how wonderful my girl is. She’s my daughter. The daughter I waited eight years for.

No child is adopted without trauma of some kind, and an older child has probably faced 10x the amount of trauma you could dream up. So unless you are a personal confidant of the adoptive parents, you probably have just the tiniest glimpse of what the family is working hard to heal from. So give grace and pray for us parents. We need wisdom desperately.

Q.  Your latest book, Counting Grains of Sand, will be released this month.  Why did you decide to write this book and what’s the heart of its message?

I’ve had so many people read my first book, Pain Redeemed, which is about our infertility struggle, and tell me they couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

At first I didn’t think there would be any more to the story. I was just here, unable to have children, and trusting that God would redeem my infertility and use it for His glory.

But the story of Abraham and Sarah—and all the years they spent counting the stars and the sand on the seashore, trying to believe in God’s promises—began carving its way into my life. I had this idea for a book called “Counting Grains of Sand” where I shared all the ways God “gave” me children. I was super, super excited about it.

There was a little boy who I cared for. My nieces and nephews who spent days at my house. We had a failed adoption, but then eventually we brought our daughter home! I numbered the ways God had given me what I desired.

I started writing the book back then, but soon we faced another season of incredible loss and the book just sat there on my computer. I kept thinking, this isn’t enough, God. It’s not enough to just count the ways you’ve given me children. Something is missing.

And there was. I realized I was counting the wrong thing.

His promise wasn’t about how many children Abraham had, or I have. It was all about His unrelenting love and compassion for me. His kindness.

So that’s the heart of the book. Learning to recognize (to DELIGHT) in the Lord and how it opens our eyes to see Him.

counting-grains-of-sand-natasha-metzler

 

Q.  What’s the one piece of encouragement you’d like to give women struggling with infertility?

You’re not alone, dear one. Jesus is right beside you. He really, truly is. And in Him is everything you need to survive.

I have no idea how God will redeem your sorrows, but I know He will.

It might not look like you expect it to. It might not be with a baby (and I know how hard it is to accept that!) but it will be good.

My deepest thanks to Natasha for sharing a bit of her heart with us. Please leave a comment below to let her know you appreciate her and make sure to check out her books, Counting Grains of Sand and Pain Redeemed.

counting-grains-of-sand-natasha-metzler

Did you enjoy this interview? You can read dozens more interviews with other infertility warriors here!

Investing in Hope During Infertility

This post contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure here.  

hope-2

Around this time every year, people start thinking about the new year and the New Year’s resolutions they want to implement. One of the most common resolutions is to start investing financially.

But how often do we think about emotional investments?

If we walk through infertility without taking measures to invest in our emotional health, we risk ending up emotionally bankrupt. We must be intentional about filling ourselves up with things that will give us hope. And not just hope for a baby, but hope that things will be okay no matter what infertility (and the rest of our life) will bring.

So how do we invest emotionally?

Start with Scripture

Scripture should always be the first thing we turn to. Not blogs. Not social media. Definitely not Google! Go to Scripture first. It is the foundation for all other investments (1 Corinthians 3:11). The central message of the Bible is hope in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7). Unless we have hope in Christ’s salvation, all other types of hope are meaningless.

Once we have established our hope in the Gospel, we can then look to God for hope for our desires. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God’s plans for us are good. He knows how hard it is to wait and long for something (Proverbs 13:12). Even if we don’t understand why he’s making us wait, or why He doesn’t seem to be fulfilling a desire of our heart, we can trust that He knows what will truly satisfy us.

Pastor and author Timothy Keller recently shared this quote on his Facebook page: “God always gives us what we would have asked for if we knew everything he knows.”

Think about what for second. God see our future. He knows everything about our past. He uses his infinite knowledge to make plans for us that go far beyond our knowledge or understanding. Even if we don’t end up understanding it here on earth, one day we will arrive in eternity and fully understand. And we will know that His plans for us were good and yes, even what we would have asked for if we had understood it all now.

Read encouraging books & blogs

Those of you who grew up in the church in the 80s might remember the kids’ song that went, “Input, output, what goes in is what comes out.” The Bible says that what we choose to expose ourselves to greatly influences our mind and our heart. So we need to choose to regularly read encouraging blogs and books, and listen to positive music. I’ll be honest with you: this one is really hard for me. I love sad songs! I don’t particularly like a lot of the mainstream Christian music right now. And I enjoy a snarky blog post just as much as anyone else. We don’t need to remove those things entirely from our lives, but we do need to be intentional about making sure we fill our minds with Truth and media that will fill us up and encourage us.

I sincerely hope this blog is a source of encouragement for you. But I also don’t post as often as I’d like, and you might need encouragement on a more regular basis. Many of my infertility sisters have wonderful blogs that you should definitely check out in between my posts! Caroline, Elisha, Chelsea, Nikol, Betsy, and Meredith, just to name a few. It’s harder to recommend Christian music because everyone has their own taste. A search on Pandora or Spotify might turn up some new artists for you. I really like the Coffeehouse Chill and Indie Worship stations on Spotify. As for books, I have a list of my favorites on my Resources page.

Surround yourself with people who will point you towards Truth

Just as we need to fill ourselves up with positive and encouraging media, we also need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us, love us, and remind us of God’s goodness. It’s important to have friends who believe differently than us, but we need to make sure we have solid, close relationships with people who share our hope in Christ. They are the ones who can point us to Scripture, pray with us, and remind us of our Ultimate Hope. If you don’t have these types of people in your life- make it a point to find them. Most churches have small groups that meet regularly to pray, socialize, and discuss Scripture. Consistent participation in community will lead to deep friendships. Yes, it might be hard because someone in the group will likely get pregnant or be pregnant. Believe me, I understand how painful that is. But it’s worth it to try to make it work, if you can. If this is something you struggle with, pray and ask God to help you find community.

Hope is the Best Investment

So let’s think about our goals and resolutions for 2017, but let’s be sure to prioritize investing in hope.  No matter what happens with our other plans, putting our hope in the One who never fails is the best thing we can do.

How will you invest in hope in 2017?  Feel free to comment and share some practical steps you’ll take.  

Dealing With Infertility During the Holidays

This is a guest post from Ally.  You can see all her other posts here.  

infertility-during-holidays

Dealing with infertility during holidays can be… well, tricky.

There’s the struggle of dealing with our own sense of disappointment and loss, of course, but then there’s also all the extras that come along with the holidays.

Traditions and celebrations, many that center around children, can be particularly painful. Diet restrictions are also an issue– I’m avoiding carbs and sweets… and maintaining my self-control by saying “No thank you,” to Grandma’s famous cookies this year will be a challenge!

Then there are the Christmas parties and family gatherings.

Those, for me, are the very trickiest parts of this season, as far as infertility is concerned.

Between feelings of jealousy reignited by a cousin with a beautiful baby bump to questions about when you’ll have a little one on the way, family gatherings can really be rife with sticky emotional situations.

But it this Christmas doesn’t have to find you hiding in the coat closet choking back tears (I’ve been there), or being hurt and angry with relatives.

After all, Christmas parties and gatherings are about closeness and togetherness- you want to enjoy  and treasure the time you spend with your extended family, not be hurt by it.

Here are some tips to get you started this season:

Prepare

You know that questions from relatives are going to come up. It’s inevitable.

Even if you’ve been very open with most of your family members, your great aunt Marsha who hasn’t seen you since you were 12 will not have heard about you struggling.

Take some time now to prep a response for the most common questions.
Here are some of mine, just to get you started.

“Do you have any children, yet?” — No, not yet. (And then I leave it at that. No need to explain.)

“When are you two going to have a little one?” — It’s all in God’s timing! 

“Don’t you look cute holding (name of niece or nephew)!” — Oh, thank you- he/she is pretty cute! I’m so blessed to be his/her Auntie! 

But more than just nailing down responses, start to prepare yourself emotionally. Build up a thick skin now and prepare for graceful answers instead of reacting badly. For me, simply expecting questions about our fertility and family planning make it easier for me to have a positive attitude and loving interactions, even when addressing issues that remind me of the cross I embrace.

Another thing to consider is if your husband will be around to help field some of the questions. Honestly, my husband does a much better job of answering family planning-type questions that I do with tact and loving honesty.

If you’re having a “down day” and know that you’ll be particularly sensitive, it’s good to relay that info to your man to help him understand your needs.

Remember the Intention

Sometimes when these kind of questions come up, it can feel like the other person is trying to hurt me…  and then I get upset and a little angry.
In all honesty, though, most of the issue there is my own perception. My relatives are really asking with the best of intentions- they’re not trying to be insensitive or hurtful.

Your relatives care about you, and remembering that fact can really help avoid getting upset when those sore-spot questions come up. After all, they care enough about you to inquire about your reproductive organs– they must feel pretty close to you!

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”- 1 Peter 4:8

Change the Subject

There are some things that I’m really not comfortable talking about with distant relatives- like our plans for treatment, why we’re not doing IVF, if we’re having enough sex (thanks, Uncle Jim…).

It’s okay to change the subject, or even to say, “You know, I’m not really comfortable talking about that.”

And, to avoid that awkward silence, be sure you’ve got a new topic at the ready -this is part of that preparation thing. Ask a question about the food, or about their job, or about how long it took them to get to the party in all that traffic. Talk about the weather, the venue, the decorations, the food.

Pray.

Uh huh.

This one seems rather obvious, but I often forget, in the moment, that I have Someone with me who always has my back. God knows the hurt in our hearts.

He knows how hard this waiting time is.

This is not new to Him- God not only knew that you’d be dealing with this particular issue, but He’s also seen so many women go through this same thing. He’s faithful – no matter our circumstances.

Advent is the season when we’re mindful again of His faithfulness to Israel, to the line of David, and to all of humanity through the birth of Jesus Christ. God fulfills His promises to us. He’ll fulfill His promises to you: to work all things, even infertility, for good.

I’ve found that with this particular struggle, it’s hard to truly anticipate every hurt that can come about. Something as simple as seeing a dad pushing his baby on the swings can remind me of my disappointment and make me keenly feel my loss. I can’t always expect it. But in those moments, talk to the One who knows.

A simple, “God, please help me through this,” may be all you can say. Or maybe your prayer will be, “Lord, help me to remember the blessings in my life in this season.”

I’ve often uttered this prayer, in the depths of my heart- “God! This hurts! Help me to remember that You’re using it for good!”

Whatever your prayer may be, He will provide all that you need. The holidays can be so hard for those of us with fertility struggles- but He’s there through it all, giving us the strength we need.

Birthed: Elizabeth Hagan’s Infertility Journey

This post contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure here.

birthed elizabeth hagan

I can’t remember how I first came across Elizabeth and her blog a few years ago.  But I do remember being struck by her honesty and authenticity when writing about her infertility story.  I’ve been encouraged by her posts not just on infertility, but on her work as an ordained minister, her ministry, and the advocacy work she does.  I hope you enjoy her interview!

Q.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I am 36. An ordained minister. A wife. A member of the TTC community for 8 years. A blogger. A fan of diet soda (even though I know it’s bad for me). A great banana bread maker. A big advocate for 2-hour lunches with friends especially if Mexican food is involved. A Mom. And now an author of Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility published [last month] by Chalice Press.

Q.  Tell us a little about your infertility journey.

My husband, Kevin, and I married in 2007. We were full of all the hopes that most younger couples are about starting a family. I knew Kevin would be an amazing dad. A couple months after we started “trying” one year into our marriage, I found myself pregnant. But, it was short lived, only 7 weeks. My doctor thought it was most likely ectopic, but told me not to fear. I was healthy. I was even under 30! I would surely get pregnant again soon. What followed were two more early-term pregnancies that resulted in miscarriage. Soon we were off to the fertility doctors for answers. Again, we were told I was healthy and my husband had only a minor sperm problem that could be fixed in the lab. So every time we tried something new, we did so we a large dose of hope. We were ready to be our doctor’s success story! But, the next six years became all about fertility treatments of all kinds. Natural cycle IVF (2x), stimulated IVF (3x), IUI with donor sperm when we thought sperm quality was really our issue (3x), IVF with my best friend’s donor eggs (1x). I never was able to carry a pregnancy and at this point, I don’t think I ever will.

Q.  What has been your lowest point and how did you survive it?

When I started thinking of the “d” word in relation to our marriage, I knew were in trouble. There was so much pain. So much heaviness in our home. And so much we weren’t talking about that we needed to.

We survived these darkest days of our marriage and life by firmly planting ourselves in a community of friends and family that loved us and wouldn’t let us go. We had friends who organized a weekend away for us. We had friends who came and sat with us and cried on our couch after devastating news. We had family who understood why we couldn’t be happy for their pregnancy news (because it rubbed up against our disappointments). I even had one dear friend come over and sit in the dust with me in our backyard and pick up rocks when I couldn’t do anything else. We were saved by the love that hovered over us. It is how we found our way back to one another.

infertility-quote

Q.  As a pastor going through infertility, you’ve had a unique perspective.  What would you say to other pastors and church leaders about being sensitive to infertility in their congregation?

Most of all, I want to tell church leaders that someone in your congregation is going through infertility right now (or knows someone well who is). Educate yourself on what this means to endure IVF or IUI. Carefully choose your language when you talk about special days such as Mother’ Day and Father’s Days and around Christmas in particular. Avoid elevating the biological family above all else. Some of us will be called to create families in non-traditional ways and we need to hear that this is still a part of God’s plan.

When I think about my goals for my book, Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility, it’s that this is a book that makes it to every pastor’s bookshelf. So many of us suffer silently and don’t feel like we can go to our pastoral leaders for comfort. But I believe Birthed can be a great resource for faith leaders.

birthed elizabeth haganQ.  What made you decide to write a book, and what do you want readers to know about it?

I never felt comfortable joining support groups or sharing about my infertility widely online when I was in the thick of it. But, I still needed support. To cope, because I am a reader, I often ordered every book on infertility on Amazon I could find.
But none of the stories I read came in a voice that felt like mine.

I wanted to a story full of wrestling with God.

I wanted a story that told the truth about infertility doctors, bumping up against your pregnant friends and bursting into tears, and what the days were like when you found out your infertility treatment did not work.

I wanted a story where I felt like the author came on the other side of infertility not with bitterness but with joy what the TTC experience taught her—life lessons that could have not been learned any other way!

So I created what I most wanted in those dark years of infertility—a story of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday. It’s a story for anyone wondering if new life is actually possible (because it is!)

Q.  Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Full disclosure: I now have a 5-month old daughter via domestic adoption. She was a complete surprise. My book even went to press before I even knew about her! When people see me with her now many are tempted to say, “Oh, how awesome. You finally got what you wanted.” Yet, to me that comment is missing the point. Sure, I’m thrilled to be baby girl’s mother and to have her our home. But, the real birth is what my life has become. Infertility was a powerful teacher.

Many thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her story with us.  Be sure to leave her a comment to let her know you appreciate her!  And don’t forget to order her book!  

Infertility Holiday Round-Up {plus a Thanksgiving bonus}

This post contains affiliate links.  You can see my full disclosure here.

holidays-during-infertility

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers in the United States!

I am so grateful for each and every one of you who takes time out of your day to read the words that are on my heart. I know that the internet clamors for our attention and I am truly humbled that you are willing to give me yours every now and then.

The holiday season can be hard when you’re dealing with infertility. It’s important take care of yourself, acknowledge the pain, and still find ways to celebrate and seek joy. I decided to post this round-up of blog posts (from my blog and other blogs) that I think will help you do just that.

A Thanksgiving Bonus

Since Amazon won’t let me offer your discounts for my book, I’ve decided to offer a Thanksgiving / Black Friday / Cyber Monday bonus. If you purchase my book, 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility, between now and Monday, I will send you the PDF version FOR FREE as a bonus. It’s perfect if you want to be able to print pages from the book (like if you want to go through the 31 days more than once).   Or, you could keep one copy and send the other to a friend!  Here’s how to get your bonuses:

  1. Purchase the paperback or Kindle edition from Amazon.
  2. Forward me a copy of your Amazon receipt/confirmation email (or send a screenshot) to Lisa@AmateurNester.com.  Please make sure your subject line says “Thanksgiving bonus”.
  3. Check your email in a few minutes for instructions on how to get the PDF edition for FREE.  Check your Spam folder if you don’t receive it.  If it’s still not there, send me another email or message me on Facebook.

EDITED TO INCLUDE THIS UPDATE: Amazon is now offering $10 off any print book purchase of $25 or more between Nov. 24-28.  Use code HOLIDAYBOOK.  It must be a physical book (not a Kindle book).  You could use it to puchase my book and other items on your wish list (check out my Resource page for more suggestions).

Let me know if you have any questions!

Photo courtesy of UnSplash